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  • STEM+ PH

In the 4th year of paving pathways toward STEM

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

“The Catalytic Internship Program taught us a lot of valuable and incredible things that we can apply in our future careers and in seeking different opportunities. It unlocked new and bright perspectives for us future professionals on what we can expect in our chosen paths. The challenge that CIP brought made our STEM journey more amazing and exciting.”

Mikay Galvez 2nd Year Medical Technology Student, Our Lady of Fatima University Immersing students in the real-life applications of STEM has always been a challenge but has now become harder because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues in STEM education have always existed, but the question at this point is: how do we future-proof and reimagine STEM in the Philippines given disruptions such as COVID-19? STEM+ PH believes that learning should remain uninterrupted. As advocates of education, it is important to continue to provide for and prepare our communities and learners for distance learning. Pivoting programs and strategies for sustainable learning The Catalytic Internship Program (CIP) was initially designed to be a 4-week summer internship program with a minimum of 112 hours of official internship time. This time is meant for participating in research and development activities in partnership with Unilab’s Research and Development (R&D) Division. STEM+ PH continues to support Unilab by promoting a sustained long-term internship program for senior high school to college students, designed to give them practical training and exposure to the STEM industry, the opportunity to develop relevant research projects under a mentorship program, crafting solutions for critical issues through hands-on activities, and help them with their overall personal and professional growth.

As a response to the cancellation of face-to-face classes and the implementation of distance learning back in 2020, the program shifted to increasing the use of online platforms for the sessions, not only to continue with the internship program but also to assist the students to adjust to the new normal. Looking back, it was a crucial time as the interns were transitioning from senior high school to college, CIP gave insight into helping them prepare them for college and entering a STEM course.

Now in its 4th year, the program has shifted to a hybrid setup together with our partners. With its core focus on equipping the right skills to conduct research for our interns, the continuous provision of mental health sessions, and exposing our interns to careers in STEM and STEM Advocacy, we were able to arrange various activities with relevant and timely topics for our interns.

The program was able to sustain the learning of STEM+PH’s existing 11 interns who are now taking up degrees in Chemistry, Material Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Health Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Psychology, Geology, Nursing, Medical Laboratory Science, and Intarmed. They were able to complete 12 online sessions with topics ranging from research phases, mental health, 1 face-to-face career talk, and individual sessions with their mentors. All these sessions were facilitated by professionals and experts, aligned with students’ interests to pave the way to improve and enhance their research and development skills. Capturing the growth of each intern is the highlight of this year’s implementation wherein each of them was able to create and present their own research proposal. Integrating STEM into their everyday lives Previously, STEM+PH saw CIP as an opportunity to promote STEM by giving the interns the chance to craft solutions for critical issues in society through hands-on activities and by exposing them to different STEM professionals. “I realized that I grew as a person through our sessions… The development of my skills led to a holistic growth, which I believe is needed for people to lead and innovate effectively in the future” wrote Josef Artiaga, a molecular biology and biotechnology student from UP Diliman. This provided the interns with new perspectives on how they see STEM as a path for bridging different disciplines, how they can apply STEM in their everyday lives, and how this could be harnessed to pave the way for the country's holistic development. This year, the interns translate their learnings into pursuing a topic that piques their interests, has social impact, and addresses the problems in our country. The research processes The first half of the CIP has prepared the interns to take on the task of producing their research proposal. With the facilitation of UL R&D Scientists, this year’s sessions primarily focused on each phase of authoring good research. From the introduction to research writing to data gathering and statistical analysis, the interns learned how to effectively write their proposals. “The year 4 experience was helpful overall, not only with creating a research concept but also getting to know the process and having a direction with our research. Since we are new to this, it was helpful that we were able to differentiate the academic and industrial research,” said Minette Aralar, a Geology Student from Adamson University. Together with the 7 mentors, each intern was able to consult and receive advice on how to improve their output. Self-care still matters The sudden shift in the education landscape has caused a toll on the overall well-being of our interns. Recognizing the need of the students for additional support, mental health sessions were arranged to process what the students feel in these unprecedented times. “I really appreciate the mental health sessions. It has been a big help for me. Given the transition from F2F to online, I had to be reminded that I need to take care of myself and my mental well-being. It is incredibly significant because it keeps me sane despite the hardships of the activities and exams. It keeps me going to pursue my dream.” said Mikay Galvez, an aspiring doctor from Our Lady of Fatima University. Research with purpose The interns were equipped with new knowledge in conducting their own research through multiple sessions delivered by UL R&D members and the students’ mentors. With each intern’s varying interests and specialties, they were able to propose their own research that is both relevant and meaningful, especially in the context of the pandemic. Each proposal had a unique objective that really aims to address the needs of our communities.

Different topics ranged from Health Care waste management and studies on air quality to the development of Multiplex Testing Kits for diseases such as COVID, Monkeypox, Chicken Pox, and Dengue. Some interns even sought to recover chemicals from waste reagents, produce hygiene products using local leaf extracts, and utilize lemon peels in producing an effective pesticide-fertilizer.

Their output is a manifestation of every concept that they have learned from the program and their mentors. All interns were able to present promising research proposals that have the chance to be adopted by UL R&D and developed into products with a significant market value in the industry. Their proposals even have the potential to transform by-products of laboratories into income-generating projects Building a better normal, together  With the strong support of the Unilab R&D division, the team was able to come up with a hybrid implementation plan focusing on the personal development of interns and online mentoring on research and project development. The online mentoring provided an opportunity for mentors to still connect with the interns and sustain the learning process even with their work-from-home setup. They were also able to inculcate in the learners the importance of their work in R&D, the role of STEM careers in facing global challenges, and providing feedback and support to their interns’ research projects. In these times, it is also important to connect through virtual communication to check on the mental and socio-emotional condition of interns, as well as the status of partner schools while recalibrating the plans given the different modalities that each school is adapting. A commitment to produce integrated STEM Learners STEM+PH continues its commitment to further giving our partner schools and interns opportunities to expose themselves and learn more about the industry. The program offers a unique experience that adds value and meaning to their journey as future STEM professionals. Their time with the program has deepened their perspectives and appreciation of the field. “Aside from research sessions and how to write proposals, I found an appreciation towards STEM as an interdisciplinary field, incorporating different subjects and even considering mental health wellness," said Jhanjoe Hermano, a Health Sciences student from Ateneo de Manila University.

Closing year 4 with promising research proposals, we look forward to seeing their work transform into full-fledged research projects for the next year. As we prepare for year 5 of the CIP, we expect to see the interns' growth and determination to pursue STEM with a more defined goal and sense of purpose.

With the proper support and strong collaboration, we can help nurture our future scientists and innovators to help build a future-ready Philippines.

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